So, you're ready for homeownership. Congratulations! You may already have an idea of what qualities in a home you are looking for, and that's great. Or you might not know yet exactly what you want, and that's absolutely fine. You most likely are working within a budget and and have a general idea of what you like. I find that most of my clients are able to narrow down their wants versus their needs once they've seen a few homes that are within their budget in person. Here's my list of top 10 things to look for when home shopping to help you get started.
"Location, location, location." There's a reason why this phrase is frequently used in the real estate biz. Sometimes, if not most of the time, location is everything. Location plays a huge factor in a price tag of a home. It dictates what public schools your child will go to. Here are some other questions to consider when deciding where you would like to buy:
How safe is this area? What is the rate of crime?
What are the rankings of the public schools in this area? (For another read, here's my list of Top 10 Public High Schools in San Jose, CA)
How walkable is this home from my child's school?
How far is this home from my work? How will it impact my commute?
How far is this home from my family and friends' homes?
How far is this home from my child's daycare?
What are the nearby recreational areas, restaurants, and businesses?
Do I want to live near the freeway exit?
What is the noise level of this neighborhood?
What do the neighboring homes look like? Do the neighbors take care of their yards? Is this neighborhood mainly occupied by renters or by homeowners?
Do I want a suburban lifestyle, or do I want a city lifestyle?
2. Home Type.
Are you searching for a single family home? Townhome? Condo? Manufactured (mobile) home?
3. Number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms.
How many members are in your household? Are you planning for more kids? Do you want a bedroom on the first level of the home for aging parents? Do you want an extra guest room or office space?
4. Living Area Square Footage.
How big do you want your home? And here's another factor that you may want to consider - do you want an open floor plan? Many times, a home with an open floor plan can feel much larger than a home with a closed floor plan, even if they have comparable square footage.
5. Lot Size.
How big do you want your plot of land to be? Are you planning to build an in-law unit (also known as a "granny unit" or an "accessory dwelling unit") in your backyard? If so, homes with large lot sizes are ideal for this.
Do you love hosting barbecues and outdoor parties? Do you want a big backyard? Do you want a low maintenance yard? Do you want a yard that's already landscaped, or do you want an empty canvas to landscape it to your preference? Do you want a pool? A gazebo? Mature fruit trees?
Most single family homes and townhomes will have garages. Condos and manufactured (mobile) homes may not. Do you want a garage? Attached or detached? How my cars do you want to fit in your garage? Do you want a side-by-side garage or a tandem garage?
8. Parking Availability.
In addition to garage space, is there a driveway? What is the street parking like for this home? Is it easy or hard to find parking? Is there permit parking? Reserved parking? Ample visitor parking space? I recommend my clients to visit a neighborhood at different times of the day and week to scope out the parking situation. Parking may seem ample during weekday mornings, but 9PM on a Sunday night may tell a different story. Homes that are nearby an apartment complex may also have limited street parking.
9. HOA & Community Amenities.
Are you willing to pay an HOA fee, and if so, how much? What does the HOA fee cover - exterior paint? Landscaping? Roof replacement? Is there a park? A barbecue area? A pool? A community gym?
Is there a washer & dryer in-unit? Is there central A/C? If not, what's the cost to install central A/C? Will the house come with its existing appliances? Sometimes, the homeowner may wish to take appliances such as the refrigerator or washer/dryer with them to their next home. If so, this will be stated in the disclosures. If you wish for them to leave these appliances behind, then your realtor can negotiate with the homeowner for you.